Quite by accident the other day, I discovered an Alabama-made beer. It happened at a popular food store up the road.
The name and the beer can looked intriguing, so I took a chance. After one sip, I knew I was on the road of good fortune.
Brewed in the northeast Alabama city of Gadsden, the beer has a honey and malt flavor that together make it tastefully exciting and fulfilling.
Lately, I’ve come to the conclusion that the beers from small breweries are much better than in my father’s time. Back in his days, the breweries were big scale and big profit. The beers were good, but they didn’t go the extra mile of taste.
At its large production plant in St. Louis, Budweiser churned out millions of bottles and cans of Bud every year. Good beer, with an old German recipe, but still, a production line beer.
Pabst Blue Ribbon, Miller, Coors and others used the same formula and rules in the beer-making realm, keeping the suds flowing around the clock.
The beer tastes were for the masses, and we all joined together to lift our bottles and cans.
In contrast, the independent, small-batch brewers today produce tastier beverages in smaller quantities. Their focus is on quality and taste, not quantity or mass market domination.
What makes daily life now interesting and different from yesterday are the new malt drinks we discover when we’re just out and about.
Many former brewery workers have left their good jobs to go out on their own with small-batch craft beers. Who can blame them? The trend is in their favor.
In my neck of the woods, we have a craft brewery in tiny Omaha, Ga., just down the road. People tell me the beer there is good and the customers steady.
The time we’re in now, thanks or no thanks to Covid, is a time of rapid advancement into self-employment or stay at home work. The single malt brewers are reaping the rewards of this shift in life.
The English religious writer Cecil Day Lewis indicated this awareness when he wrote of how he started smoking. Lewis said he went to the corner store to buy milk, saw a pack of intriguing cigarettes and returned home puffing.
I went to the corner store to pick up milk and bread and came back with a six-pack of Truck Stop. And I’m now sipping away.
That’s how most things happen with us in life. We go out for one thing, notice something different and intriguing and bring it back home. That’s the way the good Lord made up.
Now, Truck Stop has me thinking. There’s a store in nearby Columbus that carries scores of small-batch beers from independent brewers. I’m itching to go there and take a look, choose a couple of independent beers and try them out.
This type of reaction is atypical for me. I tend to hang back for a while before jumping into something new.
There has to be a huge mind-shift for it, because these independent malt stores are springing up all over and pulling in customers.
There is a new small-batch brewery slated to open just above the Chattahoochee River in Phenix City within a few months. It will be on my to-visit list when I get the news that it’s open for customers.
These small-town operations — like Red Clay Brewing Company, Resting Pulse Brewing Company and Whistle Stop Bottle and Brew in Opelika — are dramatically changing the public’s acceptance and taste for beer.
From what I can learn, beer sales today are booming. More than a third of the U.S. population is listed as beer drinkers. That’s a whole lot of folks.
The crude redneck image of beer drinkers is long gone, thank the Lord, replaced by sophisticated imbibers with impeccable tastes interested in buying the best-tasting malts on the market.
Today’s infatuation with beer, including the single malts, is truly a new thing, even though beer has been a beverage for the past 10,000 years. From my perspective, beer appears to be headed toward another 10,000 more years — or more.
As I wrote earlier, the crude red-neck image of beer guzzlers is in the rearview mirror, replaced by sophisticated drinkers with impeccable tastes interested in buying the best-tasting brews on the market.
As my wife Jean says about food and drinks, “Taste is everything.” So, true dear.
It appears that craft beer has quickly evolved from a craze to an obsession. But, there are millions of other loyal holdouts who remain faithful to the flavors of the old traditional American beers.
Let me sum up this malty column by quoting the words of English poet A.E. Houseman:
“Ale’s the thing to drink for people whom it hurts to think. And malt does more than Milton (English poet) can to justify the ways of God to man.”
Well, I’ll drink a single malt to that!
Ralph Morris is a retired newspaperman who lives near Auburn. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.